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Record Wagering and Community Events Highlight Keeneland Spring Meet

 Keeneland concluded its 2023 Spring Meet on Friday following 15 days of exceptional racing that generated record all-sources wagering of $224 million and was complemented by a slate of special events aimed at benefiting the Central Kentucky community. 

“A huge thanks to our fans, the community and our horsemen who turned out in full force this spring to support Keeneland racing,” Keeneland President and CEO Shannon Arvin said. “From morning works to watching the races along the rail or tailgating on The Hill in the afternoon – there are many ways to celebrate Keeneland. It’s rewarding to see memories being made and traditions shared across the grounds and around this great sport.” 

All-sources wagering (not including whole-card simulcasting at Keeneland) for the Spring Meet, held April 7-28, totaled $224,348,745, surpassing the previous record of $219,284,979 set during last year’s 15-day Spring Meet. 

The Spring Meet marks the marks the fifth consecutive season of record wagering at Keeneland. 

Wagering was boosted by an all-time record Pick 6 handle of $4,788,759 on April 21. 

On-track wagering for the Spring Meet totaled $15,844,092 versus last year’s $16,190,832.

Spring Meet Racing Highlights

Average daily purses at Keeneland this spring were a record $1,185,532, resulting in full fields that averaged nine starters per race.

Keeneland awarded a season record $8.05 million for 19 stakes held this spring. The schedule featured the $1 million Toyota Blue Grass (G1) and the $600,000 Central Bank Ashland (G1), both major targets for the nation’s top 3-year-olds. Keeneland also increased the purses for the Madison (G1) and the Jenny Wiley (G1) by $100,000 apiece to $600,000 and raised the purses of three listed stakes – the FanDuel Limestone, the Giant’s Causeway and the Palisades – by $50,000 each to $250,000. 

Among the memorable moments this spring:

·       Tapit Trice prevailed by a neck in a thrilling Toyota Blue Grass and became a leading contender for the Kentucky Derby (G1) Presented by Woodford Reserve.

·       Defining Purpose sprang an upset victory in the Central Bank Ashland to propel her into the Kentucky Oaks (G1) field.

·       Goodnight Olive, the Eclipse Award-winning champion female sprinter of 2022, returned in style with a 1-length victory in the Madison. 

·       Caravel captured the Shakertown (G2) by a head in her first start since winning the 2022 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) here in November.  

·       In Italian (GB) led all the way to win the Jenny Wiley in her season debut.

·       Three turf stakes records were set. Chez Pierre (FR) won the Maker’s Mark Mile (G1) in 1:33.46; in two 5½-furlong races Twilight Gleaming (IRE) went 1:01.74 in the Giant’s Causeway and Gaslight Dancer was timed in 1:02.71 in the Palisades.  

“Tremendous thanks to our horsemen and women, who continually elevate the quality of racing here at Keeneland,” Keeneland Vice President of Racing Gatewood Bell said. “Keeneland in the spring is so competitive. The best owners, trainers and jockeys all converge here; many of them don’t get a chance to race against each other any other time. It makes for a fun season of racing for them and for the betting public.”

Spring Meet Leaders

Boosted by two multiple-win race days, Tyler Gaffalione recorded 21 victories to secure his second consecutive Spring Meet riding title and fifth overall. Gaffalione won four races on April 21 and three races on April 12. He took the Shakertown and the Palisades.

Luis Saez won 18 races to finish second in the standings. Saez won the Toyota Blue Grass and the Kentucky Utilities Transylvania (G3) aboard Mo Stash. He rode three winners on April 15, including the Stonestreet Lexington (G3) on First Mission, and again on April 27. 

Finishing in third with 14 victories was Irad Ortiz Jr., who won the Madison, the Jenny Wiley and the Giant’s Causeway. 

Wesley Ward notched 12 wins to earn his sixth consecutive Spring Meet training title and ninth total. Ward, who won three races on April 20, captured the FanDuel Limestone with Love Reigns (IRE) and won the Giant’s Causeway.

Second with 11 wins was Brad Cox, who equaled the Keeneland record for stakes wins by a trainer during a single season with four: the Beaumont (G2) Presented by Keeneland Select with Key of Life, the Shakertown, the Stonestreet Lexington and the Lafayette with Corona Bolt.

Brendan Walsh, who sent out three winners on April 21 and won the Elkhorn (G2) with Verstappen, was the meet’s third-leading trainer with eight wins. 

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s Godolphin celebrated its third leading owner title at Keeneland with six meet wins that included triumphs in the Stonestreet Lexington and the Baird Doubledogdare (G3) with Frost Point. 

Barbara Banke’s Stonestreet Stables captured five races, among them the FanDuel Limestone, the Giant’s Causeway and the Lafayette, to finish second. 

Grade 1 Gamble Draws Record 292 Entries

Paul Halloran of Lynn, Massachusetts, topped a record field of 292 players and took down first prize of $73,000 in the Grade One Gamble, Keeneland’s signature handicapping contest held on April 15. The Grade 1 Gamble attracted players from across the U.S. and Canada who participated at Keeneland and on XpressBet, TVG, 4NJBets, NYRABets and HPI. 

The top six finishers each received entry to the 2023 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge at Santa Anita and the top 10 finishers each earned berths in the 2024 NTRA National Horseplayers Championship in Las Vegas. 

Keeneland Honors its Philanthropic Mission

Keeneland teamed with its corporate and horse industry partners during the meet to host special events with philanthropic goals and support community organizations. These efforts fulfill Keeneland’s mission of giving back to the Central Kentucky community. 

Among the community-oriented initiatives at Keeneland this spring were:  

·       Keeneland and Maker’s Mark celebrated the culmination of a three-year partnership that raised $180,000 through commemorative bottle sales to support meaningful arts projects in Lexington, including the Isaac Murphy Memorial Art Garden and Horse Mania.

·       Keeneland announced a $100,000 gift to the Lexington Library Foundation to help fund the new Marksbury Family Branch, a state-of-the-art community hub to open later this year on Versailles Road. The Marksbury Family Branch will positively impact a neighborhood where many horse industry workers and their families live, and provide a resource nearby for these families to take advantage of important educational opportunities.

·       Kentucky Utilities and Keeneland teamed to contribute $5,000 to the Black Male Working Academy, which provides young men with tutoring, mentoring, cultural and educational trips, along with social and emotional learning strategies. 

·       Members of the Keeneland jockey colony teamed with retired riders for an autograph session on April 7 that raised $6,495 for the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund (PDJF). On April 23, Keeneland partnered with other Thoroughbred industry organizations and FanDuel TV to raise more than $300,000 during the fifth annual PDJF Telethon. 

·       Maker’s Mark and Keeneland also made a $10,000 contribution to the PDJF. 

·       Toyota, sponsor of the Toyota Blue Grass, and Keeneland made a $10,000 donation to the Fayette Education Foundation, which focuses on excellence in Fayette County Public Schools and equity for current and future students. 

·       More than 3,698 full-time students representing 85 colleges and universities participated in the popular College Scholarship Day Presented by Lane’s End, held on April 14. Students registered to win one of ten $2,000 scholarships provided by Keeneland and the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association. Those at Keeneland were eligible to win one of two $10,000 scholarships provided by Lane’s End. 

·       Keeneland contributed $25,000 to Legacy Equine Academy, which allows African American and racially diverse middle and high school students to build life skills while learning horsemanship. 

·       Keeneland hosted Military Day at the Races Presented by UPS on April 16 to honor the men and women who serve our country. All active duty, reserve, veterans and military families received free general admission, reserved Grandstand seating and complimentary lunch from Lexington Griffin Gate Marriott and Coca-Cola in the Military Family Zone. Keeneland presented a check for $5,000 to the Lexington Fisher House as part of the day’s festivities. 

Spring Meet at a Glance (April 7-28)

 Spring 2023Spring 2022%  Change
All-Sources Handle on Keeneland$224,348,745$219,284,979+2.31 %
Avg. Daily All-Sources Handle on Keeneland$14,956,583$14,618,999+2.31 %
Total On-Track Handle$15,844,092$16,190,832-2.14 %
Avg. Daily On-Track Handle$1,056,273$1,079,389-2.14%